Archive for September, 2005

What the heck are the “Bra Wars”?

Friday, September 30th, 2005

I’ve noticed over the past few months allusions to a crisis in Great Britain nicknamed “Bra-Wars”, as one of the current crises that the nation and Tony Blair are facing and being tested by. (Also one of the crises, it is suggested, that is moving Great Britain into a state of perpetual stasis and inactivity. Something akin to a “National Malaise”, and that sense of political impotency that the nation’s public feels resigned to. Or so goes my reading of the British news reports.)

All the time I’ve never known what the heck the “Bra-Wars” were. A battle between two British super-models and how much cleavage they’re allowed to show off?

Nay. It’s a trade dispute with China. I would wish the United States had more trade disputes with China, except that China pretty much owns the United States now. I have my doubts that bras account for a vast majority of the clothing under dispute, but the media (being yellow and sensationalistic by nature) goes with the term “Bra Wars”.

Tom DeLay? Indicted? What the World Needs Now is Someone to Blog About It, because it appears nobody else is!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

The real time news-streaming of the Internet is in effect.

Kos at Wed Sep 28th, 2005 at 09:03:27 PDT:

I’d still wager we won’t get indictments of DeLay, but this is an incredible turnaround from a few months ago.

Kos at Wed Sep 28th, 2005 at 09:49:10 PDT:

Holy fucking shit.

And we’re off to the races. Apparently Speaker Dennis Hastert’s first choice for the position of “interim House Majority Leader” is a “Gay American”. And I can point to various posts made by various bloggers that stated categorically that this closeted Homosexual (wryly referred to as “Closeted Heterosexual” due to what is apparently the numb-minding obviousness of David Dreier’s sexual proclivities) was indeed… the new House Majority Leader. (In a relatively unsafe seat, mind you.) He wasn’t, and thus we get to see the Internet bloggers spoil over themselves in rumour and innuendo that used to be reserved for the big 3 networks or the major Cable Channels. Majority Whip Roy Blunt is our new smuckoid. Roy Blunt has his own proclivities, supposedly… but the reality is aside from probably Dennis Kucinich and Ron — I imagine that label pretty well covers everyone else. Roy Blunt has the advantage of not being gay.

I’m in full bullshit mode here, by the way. I have no clearer grasp of what is happening than you do. This works as a sort of “That’s what happened” piece If you want the bottom line, I give you a comment made at the reason blog:

So many democrats around just got erections so fast that my ears popped.

Here’s the thing about Bush’s 2004 election and the RNC’s victory. I’ve stated over and over again that the Senate seats were won because of a favourable GOP terrain: Oklahoma, Alaska, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, South Dakota — just re-elect Jefferson Davis and be done with it. (I have also stated repeatedly that the Democrats have an uphill climb anyway: 50-50 nation with a 30-to-20 state deficit.)

The Republican Party picked up three seats in the US House. AND: Of the seven gross seats the Republicans gained, five can be attributed to a special redistricting plan in Texas led by Republican Representative Tom DeLay. His redistricting plan was put into action, turning five Democratic seats Republican. A mid-decade redistricting like this was unprecedented and controversial. Not only “unprecedented and controversial”, but it was actually deemed unconstititutional. Throw that out, the Democratic Party would’ve gained two seats, which is merely a psychological cartharsis, albeit a minor one.

All of which is to say this, and what was the silver lining of the 2004 election: it is much better to see Bushism and DeLayism defeated in definite fashion than in indefinite fashion within extremely narrow margins. Who cares about the figures of Bush and DeLay — I’m much more concerned about the ismistics. For whatever reason, the American public was not ready to pull the shot-gun on our abysmal and obnoxious cronyistic bossist (and dare I say “BIG”) ismistic government in November of 2004. Perhaps they will be ready in 2006… and it at this point that I show you how the Senate picture (which is much easier to get a grip on than the House picture due to the size of the elective body) is shaping up:

The Democrats:

In the Senate, though, Democrats need a net gain of six seats to win the majority, so logically they need to put six GOP seats in play.

They have accomplished that; in fact, seven Republican-held seats are now in play. They are the seats held by Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jim Talent of Missouri, Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Democrats have credible candidates in all but one of those states, Ohio.

It appears likely that their nominee will be Paul Hackett, the lawyer and Iraq War veteran who came close to picking off a special election in Ohio’s 2nd congressional district against now-Rep. Jean Schmidt.

If GOP Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi retires, as many expect he will, that would set up yet another competitive Republican-held Senate seat, bringing the total to eight.

Not that this is the end all be all of All That Would Save America from the Ravages of “WTF” Government. Political Hacks abound everywhere, and at every time. Do what you must with them.

(ismistic?)

on Nostalgia and the Great Human Fight

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

A footnote (from a comment about Levi-Strauss placing the Golden Age of humanity somewhere around the Neolithic.): Marshall Sahlins places it even ealier, in the Paleolithic; the view that the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture constitutes a Great Leap Forward, he discounts as nothing but a “neolithic prejudice.” Countering the entrenched theoretical position today, wherein the question “How did the primitives managed to live?” is topped only by the question of whether their existence deserves to be called living at all, he argues in his Stone Age Economics that theirs was, as the title of his opening chapter puts it, “The Original Affluent Society.” Affluence being a ratio between means and ends, by keeping their ends modest- want not, lack not– their means were more more adequate to them than is the case with us. It is we who sentence ourselves to life at hard labor; the primitive is in business for his health. Hunters keep banking hours: “reports on hunters and gatherer… suggest a mean of three to five hours per adult worker per day in food production”. The rest of their time is reserved for gossiping, entertaining, dancing, and other arts, and daytime sleep. “Savage days are nothing but a pastime” a 17th century explorer reported. Passing to the question of what our industry has got us, Sahlins answers: ” This is the era of hunger unprecedented. Now, in the time of the greatest technical power, is starvation an institution. Reverse another venerable formula: the amount hunger increases relatively and absolutely with the evolution of culture.”

(from a very easy to miss footnote in Huston Smith’s Forgotten Truths.)

The old conversation on the topic went like this:

Not having been around to actually experience it (don’t have the book by the way)…I suppose I have been saturated with “modernist propaganda,” overlaid with acquired consumer needs. All the “follow the hunter into the woods” depictions I’ve seen (ie. the “Africa” series just recently on ed. t.v.) makes it look like they track for days to find something and lug it back to the village. Of course, the other point of that program was how scare game was because of the destruction of forest, to remaining native tribes and long ago it would have been much more abundant.

But plenty of other things we see in “hard life elsewhere” stories reinforces that idea for me. If the woman had to weave her blanket, she had to first sit and spin the wool with one of those yo-yo things, set up the loom (around her waist if South American Indian depiction), etc. etc. Everything seems infinitely laborious, and with only 24 hours in a day, computes as “having very little” at the end. What most of us lament is not the circumstances of primitive existence but all the lost “comeraderie” time these closer-knit people seem to have, beating their wash in the stream or building the leaf huts together, etc. But as soon as we contemplate “medicine man” instead of doctor and “dung fire” instead of Carrier h.v.a.c. system, the romance fades away.

So, I dunno. More time to live primitively doens’t sound like a lot better deal than office slave driving to work instead of walking to water hole, or getting food at Kroger instead of plowing with water buffalo. Maybe the nature of how trapped we are doesn’t change, but the heaviness of the labor and the (perceived anyway) hazardousness of it is all we’ve changed. Most of us would rather whine along with arthritis than die younger from impalement on anti-tribal spear.

And my response: Well, the problem with the anti-idealized version is: we can’t go back, and even if the proponents of the idealized past version of life are saying it was better (and I have my doubts), I don’t think the authors are suggesting we follow the hunters back into the woods anyway– we’ve been culturally transformed to the point where we can’t accept that life.

And then comes the crushing conclusion of all we hold dear, from the Huston Smith book proper:

(pg 122) The long-range prospect for our universe are not encouraging. Whether it ends by collapsing into a widening black hole or winds down to an entropic deep freeze four degrees above absolute zero does not much matter; be the finale a bang or a whimper, its human import is the same: our universe will not support life indefinitely. Given the rate at which the sun is spending its energy, our particular solar system will die long beofre our universe does, of course. In 5 billion years it will have thinned out to 250 times its present diameter and swallowed our planet.
Such prospects caused a former dean of Canterbury Cathedral to cry, “Short views, for God’s sake, short views.” But with the , the short-range future, too, looks bleak. etc. etc. Sartre is not profound, but he is a shrewd phenomenologist, and on the existential level where he works he advises that “we must learn to live without hope.”

This is simple entropy. Things fall apart — it’s scientific. (Except, really they simply change shape.) No wonder human-kind frequently becomes nostalgic for less-than-stellar moments in the past. What is the deal with those Middle-Aged theme restaurants, where people eat sloppily as per celebrating the worst eras of Western History? “Remember Fiefdoms! The Hun Invasions! The Bubonic Plague! 30 year life-spans! Those were the days, weren’t they?”

New Yorkers are rapt to rail against the post Rudy Giuliana Disneyfied Times Square. Not to celebrate Rudy Giuliana’s grand Disney vision of New York (soon to be imported to New Orleans, with post-modern “safe” transvestettes acting as tour guides) Was the Times Square of the 1970s anything to write home about? It was a grimy celebratory of the city (and, for that matter, the nation’s) economic woes and stagnation… the city’s malaise, the national malaise.

Take the Michael Ruppert thesis on Peak Oil, a blog entry I never got to where I muse about how he seems to believe we have arrived at a state where our future is in a series of localized neo-feudal Anarchic collective communities… of which Portland, Oregon is in the best shape in the nation to adjust to. Or take, Curiously enough, Bush’s recent echo of Carter of the Carter Era, and we’re back to the approaching void that the nation faces up to every so often… as per Hoover’s 30s, Nixon-Carter-Ford’s 70s. In the 30s, Fascism was on the March — or perhaps Stalinism. In the 70s, the American Empire was declared dead in the jungles of Vietnam (wish it were so)– the Soviet Union was triumphant — Sparta had defeated Athens yet again. Today, China is on the March, and Europe is building itself up against us.

And yet… I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but … we’re fine. We’re okay.

The much celebrated Chinese Economy is creating schtuff and moving wealth around — somewhere or other — and… plow over a 3 year old story on China’s economy because it’s the first thing that pops up when I google something germane here… and it’s all pretty much familiar terrain, only… more so there than here. (Economists have been quick to point to certain signs of America’s Great Economic Revival, before quietly noting that… large swarths of the public is not really experiencing the improvements, and another large swarth are returning to crappier jobs than the jobs they lost when the economy most recently turned sour.)

It’s 1978. America is falling apart at the seams. Here’s the question: which superpower nation would you rather be living in, which superpower nation do you have the better opportunity for a sort of personal atonomy: the USA or the Soviet Union? (Perhaps it’s a trick question to some concerned. Let’s pretend we conquer Venezuela and rid them our hated Hugo Chavez, replacing him with our latest shady Oil Magnate. Would you rather live in Soviet Poland or United Stateside ultra-neo-liberalized Venezuela?)

75,000 miles.

Another asteroid near-miss.

This happens 2 or 3 times a year. It has fit itself into a nook and cranny of our culture’s psyche. An asteroid comes by an astoromical whisker yet a human tonnage from hitting the Earth. The astronomers who spotted it either spotted it just as it was coming by or many months ago, and knew its import. In either case, they told nobody until weeks after it happened. No sense in causing an unnecessary panic over something potentially deadly that nobody has any control over.

In some small fringe sectors of society, it fuels the desire for a “Star Wars” missile defense system. In others, it reinforces the belief that a bureacratic government acts as the goliath police state that it is for no other reason than to compensate for their very real impotence in the realm of security and control. Collision with religious fervor for the apocalypse, and the paranoia runs deep… ’cause buried and bubbling from this psyche is the tale of the Extinction of the Dinosaurs — the idea of the Rise and Fall of Mighty Bemoath Empires. In the same vein as the thought of the fall of the USA is akin to the fall of Rome, we have the Fall of the Dinosaurs (anthromorphized into a culture) and the Fall of the Humans. […]

I muse over this old essay I wrote. “they told nobody until weeks after it happened. No sense in causing an unnecessary panic over something potentially deadly that nobody has any control over” is fit into the politics of our color code schem — which has been proven to bear no relationship with any actual matrix of terrorist threats, and was a purely political trick for a few uptiks in a government’s approval rating. (I also note an important part of Human Nature: When New Orleans fell apart, the New Orleans residents behaved perfectly well, despite rumours to the contrary that fell into a sort of unconciously racist echo chamber of the media collective. The people adjusted to their horrid conditions… little thanks to the Mayor of New Orleans and no thanks to the President of the United States of America.)

The government which tears apart FEMA, because of an ideologicalical opposition to such a thing. This is Entropy Forced… Entropy by Design. (We will now cut back on various government services not in the Defense Budget and not in the Highway Pork Budget and not in the Purchasers of the Government Slush Fund so as to (a) rebuild New Orleans with Disnefied post-modern transvestette tour guides and (b) return America to the pristine state it was under the McKinnley Administration.

Perhaps that is too conspiranoid. But make the adjustments as appropriate to our needs… and fight the good fight, because… we will win.

The 20th Century. Was It Satan’s Century?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

“AT ITS worst, this has been Satan’s century. In no previous age have people shown so great an aptitude, and appetite, for killing millions of other people for reasons of race, religion or class.”

The 50th anniversary of the liberation of innocent victims imprisoned in the Nazi death camps prompted the foregoing comment in an editorial in The New York Times of January 26, 1995. The Holocaust—one of the most widely known genocides in history—exterminated some six million Jews. Nearly three million non-Jewish Polish citizens perished in what has been termed the “Forgotten Holocaust.”

“An estimate for the period from 1900 until 1989 is that war killed 86 million people,” says Jonathan Glover in his book Humanity—A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. He adds: “Death in twentieth-century war has been on a scale which is hard to grasp. Any averaging out of the numbers of deaths is artificial, since about two-thirds (58 million) were killed in the two world wars. But, if these deaths had been spread evenly over the period, war would have killed around 2,500 people every day, That is over 100 people an hour, round the clock, for ninety years.”

Consequently, the 20th century has been called one of the bloodiest centuries humanity has ever known. In Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes: “We have seen the triumph of evil after the values of humanism have been vilified and trampled on.” In the struggle of good against evil, has evil really won?

………………….

Evil, under whatever name you wish to call it, dominated the 20th Century. People died for the most incredible reasons, tens of millions of them died for a reason as stupid as a conflict of Economic Systems. Tens of millions more died because of a conflict of National Identity Viewpoint. We will not mention those who died simply because they could not get uncontaminated drinking water! These things are not reasons, they are merely words we use to mask our collective insanity.

The very things that should have enlightened us for the betterment of the world in general, in fact just gave us more methods of slaughtering more of our fellow men (and women and children). The airplane shrunk the earth as nothing else could have, and yet it also bacame our prime method of attack when we decided to once again start the killing. What is really so horrible is that the world, all of it, did not learn one damn thing from living through and experiencing it. Now, apparently, our concept of God is going to be the reason for our future murder and oppression.

It is allso worth mentioning the medical advances made during that time period for without those advances, I would be dead right now. It is now possible to stop the heart, overhaul it with tissue and various tubes from the same body, then restart the whole apparatus and have the recipient be up and moving about fairly easily within three days time. To what end? After all that wondrous work and procedure we have only to pause for a moment to remember that one 15 cent bullet will negate all of that good work and we are right back at square one.

Where will it all end? The same place it has always ended; in a town in some obscure country you never heard of, or on a roadside where you once travelled while visiting friends or relatives. It never seems to change.
……………………..

(Was typed over there)

My further thoughts on the graphs of public approval of the righteousness of various wars, specifically World War I, found here:

In response to:
It is interesting to note that from Oct 1941 to Dec 10 the percentage saying it was a mistake dropped from 35 to 21. Did the bombing of Pearl Harbor create that change? Logically it should have had no effect since the question was about a different war. But I suppose if people were logical there would be no need for polls to measure their illogic.

I say:

I find it more curious the giagantic fluctuation between January of 1937 to October 1939 — from 64% “mistake” to 48 percent and back up to 59%. The rest of the poll results are pretty well a down-ward spiral, Americans recharging their attitude toward The War to End All Wars away from believing it was a matter of watching their sons dying in large quantities across the globe for a couple feet of the land of some other smuck at a time. This fluxuation (assuming it isn’t a “outlier”) would have to be tied to events in Europe, which I guess I would have to look up.

Sports Corner

Monday, September 26th, 2005

When I saw the cover to Sports Illustrated a few days ago, my thought was simple:

(cover connected to this story)…

See, McNabb and Owens’ relationship has been rocky over the past months, and they’ve called each other names through the press and yadda yadda yadda… they play the lowly 49ers and win, and suddenly everything’s all good and… my thought was:

I hope to gawd that Terrell Owens and Donavann McNabb get involved in a fist-fight during this week’s game!! It didn’t happen, but maybe something will come to blows to prove the cover dumb shortly.

That desire to see Owens and McNabb come to blows of some spectacular fashion or other (and please note, I could care less about either of the players or the team of the Philadephia Eagles) goes back to the Sports Illustrated cover curse, which has it that an athlete or a team appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and they experience trouble shortly thereafter. It’s easy to explain by comparing it to a stock market bubble: the team or player often appears on the cover at an inflated moment of success. Take this cover. This cover came after the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the Denver Broncos in the playoff, and the Carolina Panthers upset the Dallas Cowboys. The first one was particularly surprising, and at the time was referred to as “the biggest upset since Superbowl 3″. The tone of the magazine article was suggesting that this was pretty much the end of John Elway’s Superbowl aspirations. (As it happened, the Broncos put this bizarre loss behind them and won the next two superbowls..) In relation to these two teams: of course they went on to lose the conference champions! Underdogs are underdogs for a reason.

The previous issue’s cover story was of the New Orleans Saints’ victory over the Carolina Panthers… made a story due to the fact that the New Orleans Saints were then homeless and unsettled and had no stadium to play their home games at due to Hurricane Katrina. They lost the following week in the most bizarre home games ever. The game was moved to Monday night as an extra Monday Night football game, making it a “marquee game”. The game was against the New York Giants. The game was played in New York. The New York Giants were the “away” team.

The fans cheered on the New York Giants… never mind the fact that the NFL took it upon themselves to stick a few “New Orleans Saints” decals over the field, since, you see, the New Orleans Saints were the home team… kind of.

I don’t know if this fits the “Sports Illustrated cover” curse, but the New Orleans Saints lost the game, and were fairly bitter toward the NFL for (1) making a bigger deal of this particular game than it seemed fitting, and (2) the whole “home game” in the opponent’s stadium thingy kind of rubbed them the wrong way.

Hm. Amusing, ain’t it?